ON THE GLOBAL TIMBER TRADE.
This website provides information (charts and commentary) about international trade in timber products. Its focus is on tropical timber, particularly that originating in Africa and East Asia.
The site also includes an introduction to China - perhaps the most important market for both regions' tropical timber, particularly in respect of forest governance - and a summary concerning imports of wooden furniture from East Asia.
The charts are based on published statistics of declared imports. The statistics are available from a number of information centres that are open to the public. The quality of import statistics collated by some importing countries leaves something to be desired. Consequently, the data (which exclude small quantities) which have been abstracted to generate the charts have been amended where the statistics published are clearly anomalous.
Few if any importing countries co-operate with the customs/inspection services of producer countries in checking declared imports with exports - a simple task to measure possible fraud. The small number of product codes (particularly for logs and sawn wood) used by customs inhibits such checking. Targeted investment in customs/inspection services (including simple computing and communications technology) backed up by robust law enforcement would, particularly where timber exports account for a substantial proportion of a producer country's foreign exchange earnings, probably yield a handsome rate of return.
Perhaps vested interest and intimidation affect the apparent choice of the World Bank, IMF and other creditors/donors to not support such investment. In an ideal world, declared tropical timber imports would correspond one for one with declared exports. However, all too frequently, this is not the case (due for example to laundering, and false declaration for transfer pricing purposes), resulting in loss of government revenue and indicating weak management.
Trade can have
a positive and negative impact on illegal logging and sustainable
forest management "SFM". This website indicates which trade flows
are likely to have most leverage on (forest) governance.
sovereign right of heads of state to corrupt the instruments of government
(including the judiciary) and liquidate their national assets in a
manner contrary to the national interest (at times at the behest of
"development" agencies) is a major handicap. Taxpayers in
creditor/donor countries have yet to highlight their distaste for
bailing out producer countries whose leaders demonstrably care little
about generating finance for long term development from the national
resources which, given their titles, they should husband. Re-establishing
land and other rights for forest people is probably a pre-condition
for long term forest stewardhsip.
Countries whose forest law is sound and enforced should be favoured as sources of supply. All timber exported from countries whose forest law is so weak or unenforced as to fall below a standard which multi-lateral fora deem unacceptable, should be deemed illegal (unless independently verified as deriving from operations meeting that standard) and individuals/companies responsible for its export/import should be charged in a forest crimes court whose jurisdiction is global.